How to Have an Amazing Classroom without Overspending

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When I envisioned my first classroom I saw amazing bulletin boards, neatly organized bookshelves, and a colorful theme throughout. Of course, as a new teacher I spent my summer shopping on decor that would make my classroom amazing and would impress my students and their families at Meet the Teacher night.  Looking back, I realized that I spent too much of my summer on shopping and I overspent.  One thing that made me realize that I had spent too much money was when I was desperately waiting for my first paycheck to pay for my classroom!

I probably would have continued to overspend during my career as a teacher, but a life event changed everything.   During my first year of teaching the recession began and the business my husband worked at closed.   My hobby job became our only source of income! It really brought me to reality of how much money I was spending for my classroom.

The following year, I had to really think what was important for my classroom. I tried to reuse as many things that I possibly could. The only thing I bought for my classroom that second year was classroom name tags. My budget truly was zero dollars.  It was so hard because in our profession you are judged and rated by your classroom.   I was embarrassed that my coworkers would think I didn’t care about my job, just because my class wasn’t decorated like a showroom!  As the years went by, money did not improve but my resourcefulness on classroom spending did.

Take Inventory and Make a List

At the end of the school year take an inventory of your classroom.  I know you want to run out of your room in elation, but take some time to look around because it will save you time and money.

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Library – Remove damaged books and ones that you never see anyone reading. Dispose of the ones that are damaged and donate the books to other classrooms or a donation center. Ideas to replenish books:

  • Advertise in your weekly class newsletter that you take used books for your library
  • Go to thrift stores and buy inexpensive books- The most used books in my class are picture books that have a lot of subjects and are non-fiction.
  • Go to second hand book stores on their discount day.
  • Review Craigslist and OfferUp at the end of the school year when everyone is cleaning out their school supplies.
Office Supplies

Office supplies- Take inventory of glue, tape, pencils, paper, etc.

  • Order them through the school supply warehouse if you can.
  • Write your dream list of supplies. That way on the first week back to school you can notify parents of what you need for your classroom.  Many times, I get my class list a week before school starts and I send a Welcome Email with a wish list of items that are needed for the classroom. Parents are more giving at the beginning of the year because most have planned a budget for those items.
  • I also send a wish list around the holidays with items such as tissues and pencils.
Creative Teaching Woodland Press

  • Decorations- Look at the poster paper, borders, and classroom décor. If they are in good condition keep them.
    • If you want to update them go to the discount store or Amazon and buy them right after school the school year ends because prices are cheaper.
    • If you need posters visit retiring teachers and online sites such as Craigslist and Offer Up for teachers who are selling their items.
    • If in a pinch and you need to cover those walls on the cheap, there is always the Dollar Tree Teacher section.  Although, I have found that these items may be cheap, they do not stand the test of time.

Now that you have a list of what you need it is time to shop.  Before I buy anything for my classroom I ask myself these questions:

  • Can I use it for many years and varied grade levels?
  • Is it useful for the students and will maximize learning?
  • Will it save me or my students time?
  • Will it reduce my workload?

If I can answer yes to any of these items and it is the best price I can find, then I make the purchase.  My goal is to be ready when I close my classroom.  It saves me a lot of time and energy that first week back from running to the teacher store and impulse buying when prices are at their highest.  I hope this helps you to save money and remember to always keep your receipts for reimbursement by PTO, if your school offers it, and for tax deduction.

 

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5 Investment Items for the Classroom Under $75

When I was a new teacher I remember shopping for hours on what I thought were my classroom essentials.  Looking back, I wasted a lot of money on items that I thought that I couldn’t live without. After 13 years of teaching, I don’t shop as much as I used to, but I thought if I had to start over what are the 5 true investment pieces.

Classroom Pocket Chart

I can’t tell you how many scissors I have bought for students.  After years of buying scissors, I bought this pocket chart that was intended to prevent my scissors from disappearing. If the scissors are stored, it also prevents the students from whittling their desks and pencils!  A common occurrence in 5th grade.

Although my intention was just for the scissors, it ended up holding their ear buds, calculators, passwords, and any item they felt needed to be secured.  For example, whenever they had to change classrooms and a “stranger” was sitting in their desk, I would see random students start putting their treasures in their numbered pocket.

Sterilite Large Basket (Approximately 17×13)

 

After many years of carrying my grading pile in cute teacher bags, where the papers can get damaged, slip out of order, and paper clips fall off, I found these simple white baskets.  As the last student turns in their assignments I have them paperclip the papers and put them in the grading basket.  The basket is big enough that you can rotate the papers.    I also use one for my “To be Copied”  items.  I have had copy moms tell me how much they like the basket because they can easily rotate the stacks and they are easy to carry with the typical teacher load of papers.

Super Strong Magnet Hooks

 

These are dual purpose for your white board.  I use these not only to hold papers and posters to the white board, but when a student is absent I use it to hold assignments onto the side of their desk.  This prevents all of the papers from falling to the floor and keeps any returned work private.

I also use them to hold the hall passes and hang random ear buds that are left around the classroom for someone to claim them.

A Nice Magnetic Dry Eraser   

It seems when I am teaching I misplace everything I need.  Then when I need them most, I can’t seem to find a marker, dry eraser, overheard remote control etc..  My magnetic erasers never leave the board!

I know we all have those cheap foam ones, but it is time to replace it with a quality dry eraser!  After receiving these as a gift  I can’t go back to the free ones that always smeared my board and never really erased.  Spend a little extra on a nice dry eraser, you are worth it!  Plus, it is used daily!

 

File/Document Sorter

This item is the biggest time saver for me.  In fact, part of the first week of school in my class is teaching students how to turn in their papers in the sorter.  During the first week, I always think this is so arduous, but it is worth it!  When my students turn in their papers they have to go in a certain traffic pattern and line up to put their paper in the sorter.  It gets them out of their seat and gives a little break.  Once they know the process it can be completed within minutes.  The best part, I never have to spend time in class to figure out the “no name”  or who didn’t turn in their paper, because they are always in order.  The last person in line pulls the paper from the sorter, paper clips, and turns it into my grading basket.

These are my 5 investment pieces for my classroom.  Tell me your investment pieces that you can’t live without in the comments.

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